Federal judge orders release of immigrant children from detention centers

Federal judge orders release of immigrant children from detention centers

[JURIST] Judge Dolly Gee of the US District Court for the Central District of California [official website] on Friday upheld [order, PDF] her July decision [JURIST report] and ordered the government to release immigrant children held in family detention centers, “without necessary delay.” The original ruling [opinion, PDF] found that the current Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] method of detaining children with their mothers violates a 1997 court settlement. The settlement bars children from being detained in unlicensed secure facilities. The issue was whether this covered all children including those being detained with their mothers. The government argued that holding the children in this manner was necessary to keep families together while their immigration status was being reviewed and the detention is also necessary to deter immigration in this manner. Gee rejected the government’s reconsideration request for failing to raise a new argument and gave government officials until October 23 to comply with her initial ruling.

US immigration law [JURIST backgrounder] continues to be a controversial and heavily politicized area of law at both the state and federal levels. In February a federal judge in Texas temporarily blocked [JURIST report] two key parts of a recent immigration initiative announced by US President Barack Obama [official website] that would halt the deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants. In November a judge for the US District Court for the District of Arizona [official website] struck down [JURIST report] an Arizona law that made smuggling immigrants a state crime because it conflicts with federal laws governing immigration. In August 2013 the Obama administration released [JURIST report] a policy directive known as the “Family Interest Directive,” emphasizing that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents should apply “prosecutorial discretion” towards undocumented immigrant parents of minors to limit detaining parents and to safeguard their parental rights. In June 2013 the US Senate approved [JURIST report] a bill which would create new pathways to US citizenship for the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants now living in the US. That bill was subsequently not approved by the House.